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Building Trust with Charlie Feng

George Grombacher March 5, 2022

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Building Trust with Charlie Feng

LifeBlood: We talked about building trust with team members remotely, the value of hard work, the importance of self-care, and making the shift to asynchronous communication, with Charlie Feng, entrepreneur, investor, mentor and CoFounder of Clearco.  

Listen to learn why it’s important to remember everyone is the hero of their own journey!

You can learn more about Charlie at Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well. 

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Please subscribe to the show however you’re listening, leave a review and share it with someone who appreciates good ideas.  You can learn more about the show at, or contact George by clicking here.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Charlie Feng

Episode Transcript

let’s look this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Charlie Fang. Charlie, are you ready to do this? Yes. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks, George. excited to have you on. Charlie is an entrepreneur. He is an investor, a mentor he and organizations you’ve worked he has worked with have funded over $2 billion across 5000. Companies. Charlie, get him excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do. Yeah, I guess my background is I grew up in a kind of middle class family, first generation immigrant. And the

Charlie Feng 0:53
I learned about kind of, I guess, entrepreneurship, or the idea that you kind of build your own business sometime in college I did before that I didn’t really know it was a, it was something I can make a career out of it was a thing.

And I think that was the eye opening moment when I realized that, you know, you could, if you could build something that people want, or you could build something that solves a particular problem, you kind of make a living doing this. And I had a lot of fun doing that. A lot of fun, just problem solving and taking something that I thought needed to be changed where I wished something existed. And doing that. So a lot of my skill set is a kind of self taught but kind of a mix between a bit of programming and the data side a bit of finance. That’s kind of where I guess I was technically trained from a schooling college perspective, and product, which is kind of bit of introduction. And we started building clearcoat, six years ago, that’s the most recent company. Before that, I had a couple of companies one in the AI space and the other one in the crater space. And we we all the founders of clear CO we were kind of repeat founders, and one of the lessons we learned from our previous experiences was that no one starts a business to go fundraise, right? You don’t start you start a business to solve a problem, you start a business because you’re passionate about something, but no one starts a business to look at accounting in the books all day yet. Most successful. Entrepreneurs, if you talk to them, they’re like, Yeah, I spent most of the day on the road fundraising or talking to investors. And that’s kind of what we wanted to change a little bit. So that’s why real quick on as he says, We do this in a non diluted fashion, we do this purely data driven, we plug into data sources of companies, and it’s very different from kind of traditional investing, it’s more so more like a data driven way to look at a business and then we just automatically deploy capital or fund people. If criterias are met.

george grombacher 2:49
Nice. What did your parents do? Or what what what do they do? Yeah, both my parents are scientists, and they work for the government. And they’ve been doing kind of the same job for multiple decades now. And, you know, growing up as a kid and looked up very much to my parents, I was like, Oh, I guess this is the, this is what you should do right kind of thing. And I was very much a math and science students had to grow up as that in high school and all that.

Charlie Feng 3:16
And I guess that didn’t really change until college. Got it. And so you recognize a wow, there’s an opportunity to be an entrepreneur to make a living by solving problems and bringing cool things into the world. And you did that. And now you have, you know, funded $2 billion, probably way more than that, at this point at this massive number. It’s fascinating. It’s like when, when you’re a parent, and you come from, for lack of a better term from nothing, and you become a wealthy person. How do you help kids to? Or is it possible to help your children to have that same grittiness work ethic? And I wonder if there’s a similarity there between what you went through of starting from nothing, not from nothing but becoming successful? And then helping other companies to get funded more easily? Do you see parallels there? See what I’m trying to ask? Yeah, that’s very interesting. Yeah. And you’re right now we funded I think over 6000 companies 2.5 billion and such. It’s kind of growing. And in that regard, I think you’re absolutely right. I, I don’t have any kids yet. But something I do think about is, like, what because I do think that we’re all products or byproducts of our surrounding our history, our interactions and all that and bit of a product of our, our history in our environment. And I think a lot about like, what made me who I am today, why do I make certain decisions, were thinking about certain things the way I think about today. And I think a lot of that comes from, you know, my parents think for right or whether it’s my early mentors during college or kind of

we would do price matching, when we first moved to Canada, and the, we were definitely not wealthy by any means that I wouldn’t even classify us is that we’re even close to that today very much middle class. And we, I remember kind of taking a 20 minute bus just so that we could get banana, that’s like 52 cents cheaper at a different grocery store.

george grombacher 0:00
Come on

Unknown Speaker 5:36
And I think one of the things that I’ve come to appreciate a lot more, although I think the frugality is still kind of baked into me, if you will, I think a lot more about like, the time value of money, where the 20 minute bus ride might not be worse than two cents, I’m gonna save all of it saving like, you know, $2 we’re talking about, I don’t know, I like, if it’s a larger amount, maybe it’s worth it, but probably not for the two cents banana anymore. But as a result, I think we, we built clear code, we thought a lot about the best use of capital. So depending on what initiatives you’re using it for, the best use of capital may not be equity capital, you may not be debt capital, and they may not be critical, kind of these alternative capital sources that you receive pop up. So we think about from a funding your business perspective really depends on what the purpose is. So if you’re looking to develop a revolutionary technology, you know, cure cancer, kind of r&d, equity capital makes a lot of sense, right? You’re you’re putting money into invest into something that you probably won’t see a payout, or even, even if there is a payout of pre binary 012, or one payout, probably in five or 10 years. And that’s where risk capital makes a lot of sense. Once you kind of build more stability, and you know, that your business has, for every dollar you put in, you get $2 out something like clerical or something more structured probably makes a lot more sense. You don’t want to give up as much of your upside or your own equity for that cap. So we think a lot about that. And that’s how we also kind of when we’re deploying capital recommend to our founders that we fund.

george grombacher 7:18
Nice, I appreciate that. So to sort of build on on that question, when when you are mentoring founders, as I know that that’s something that you do a lot of, and something you’re really passionate about. Kind of you you want to help give them advantages, but not give them an advantage that is, is going to make things too easy, or is that the wrong way to look at it.

Unknown Speaker 7:50
I think it’s something that I’m still kind of learning I like I’m not that experienced as a either as a mentor or advisor or as a coach by any means. But I started doing that mostly because there were she started out with some ex employees of mine, or ex clear code, folks or friends that decided to start their own companies. And there were some specific areas of expertise that I had, I guess, at the scar tissue. So I made a lot of mistakes, doing so and was able to help out. But I think one of the things I learned kind of George, to your point over the years is that sometimes you do, maybe maybe this is what you’re alluding to, like, let let people kind of fall and make their own mistakes, right, because that’s kind of how you’ll learn. And as much as you tell someone, what might happen. It’s like they still had a need to try it out themselves. And I think I’ve come to appreciate that more, or recognize that a bit more. So a lot of what I think about when I’m kind of mentoring or advising companies is to give them more scenarios or my experiences of what happened to myself, but kind of let them make their own decisions. And maybe give them my framework of making how I made those decisions in my past where we get a partnership with a large company or Well, we made us a sort of sale that was very different. But kind of you know, let them make little mistakes, if you will.

george grombacher 9:21
Yeah, no, I appreciate that. It’s obviously going to be different for everybody. And and, and all that stuff. And you wish that human beings would take wisdom from experience, but oftentimes, we do need to just figure it out on our own. So in terms of I’m just curious, now that you moved on from clear code, how are you spending your time? What is a typical day look like?

Unknown Speaker 9:49
Yeah, my typical day is it’s slow. It’s it’s different. It’s very different from the type of work I do, but I think I still spend a lot of time Doing I guess what people might call work, but I find that I find, which is reading and research and a lot of reading up some writing more fun from a reflection perspective, based on the reading, and then a lot of research on what to do the, the new product within clinical or when we were building clinical, right? The the phases where you’re trying to go from zero to one, it’s very much a, try to understand what the market looks like, talk to a lot of people talk to a lot of people and try to understand what are the potential problems that you want to you could solve, and then you need to pick which one you want to tackle. So I’m kind of in this phase right now where trying to take some time off and you know, relax and kind of detach a little bit, I think that’s healthy, from a kind of like a work life balance perspective. And at the same time, when I do have to spend my time on work, it’s more so the now it’s like research and reading, angle, learning new technologies and such.

george grombacher 11:04
Nice. So that idea of time off, and we’ve been talking a lot about self care, it seems like it’s just been sort of in the ether a lot lately. That wouldn’t have made any sense to me, you know, 20 years ago, and makes more sense to me today. What do you think about that?

Unknown Speaker 11:24
I think I couldn’t agree more like I probably wouldn’t I, I probably give you a very different answer. If you had asked me this question, you know, 510 years ago, and it’s the, I think, even over the last two years, both as a company how clerical has changed and changed me as well as myself, and how my outlook has changed quite quite a bit. So to give you a bit of context, or history, when we started the company, we were kind of five, seven people in a in a condo, there, breed the work and was very much this is what we’re doing. And as a result, a lot of the in office culture carried on as we grow bigger. And now we’re fully remote. We have team members kind of all over the globe, we have leadership in different countries in different places. So by default, it’s fully remote now. And this happened in 2020, after the whole pandemic and us learning, what does that mean? What are the new rituals you need to create? What are things that for example, watercooler talks are kind of like tight when you take time off in this New World. Sitting at home kind of a staycation is very different from kind of, like if you stay at home, a Slack store or whatever messaging system you use is still kind of popping off, you’re still getting emails all day, you don’t get the same effect as you did when you went on vacation, and you physically didn’t have Wi Fi right, that kind of thing. So these are things that I started to appreciate a lot more. And I think a lot about how to, I guess how to actually detach properly, right to make the most because when you’re when you’re trying to detach, you try to recharge yourself, you try to kind of self care, both your body physically, but also your mind, right, mentally. And that’s something that to be honest with you I struggled with. And I think I recently even struggle with. Because after leaving clerical, I was like, Okay, I’m gonna take some time off, and for myself and all that. And then I realized, I just stayed at home and stared at the monitor all day didn’t make much of a difference, right? So I’m trying to think about what are new mechanisms or new routines to get a bit of that mental self care and break?

george grombacher 13:45
Yeah, it’s an interesting thing, right? You’re wired a certain way. And I think sometimes when we talk about work life balance, that not everybody, our ideas of balance are different. And just because you perceive that, that, Charlie, if I perceive that you’re working 18 hours a day, I would think well, maybe that’s a terrible thing. But maybe you have all the energy and that gives you energy, and you really enjoy it. So it’s a function of going back to maybe that time value of money thing we’re talking about before is, is taking a little bit of time off here and there. Is that actually going to be increasing my ability to effectively work and be more effective. Just all all that. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 14:26
I definitely agree with that. I think through ever since we went remote, I’ve also come to learn and appreciate that everyone’s a little bit different, right? Everyone is, has their own the peaks of their day that they are most productive and times when they need to be off. And at first I kind of wasn’t used to because I was thinking about no through my own lens or my own perspective to say oh, yeah, no, I like to work these hours. But then I quickly realized that like the hours when I was working, some people were sleeping so people want to they want to spend with their family, whatever it may be. And we started to develop a lot more of an asynchronous culture where I could post something, but I shouldn’t be asking for an answer, or asking for a meeting. But rather, I put a question out there on the channel, and someone else when they’re working, or they’re productive time of the day, they’re answering themselves, and then quite a lot better of a culture, I felt like when people could kind of fully make it what they will. But it didn’t really force us as a company to change how we approached working, because they used to be approached very much in a synchronous culture where you sit down in meeting, right. And that’s how we started, when we first went from pandemic to the Zoom culture, it was just like, as if every meeting turned into a Zoom meeting. So there wasn’t really any benefits of being detached, we were just all staring at a computer screen. Jumping, instead of jumping from office rooms, we would just jump from two minutes the difference in meeting and then I think we thought a lot more about kind of the workout, not work life balance, but specifically around kind of what you mentioned around what is that time value of money like time out? Like what is your most productive time of the day, how to make the most use of everyone’s happiness and time spent and optimize the the work routines more to adapt to that?

george grombacher 16:18
Is that a is the ability to do that. It’s based on trust and confidence that the folks you’re working with are fully invested in wanting to work hard. It’s just that they’re do things different than you do.

Unknown Speaker 16:31
Yeah, I think it does definitely require a pretty high degree of trust. Because you are believing that they shouldn’t did well, if someone needs to take 18 hours to get the work done. Great. They want to work 18 hours, great if someone wants to just put in two hours, but get the same deliverables. Deliverables done. That’s also great, right. And it kind of makes the culture very much more of a you measure not by kind of the inputs that people put it but more by the outputs that people are coming out so much more results oriented, which I think is ultimately good at the end of the day.

george grombacher 17:13
Yeah, interesting. Different Seasons life, Charlie, just going through the maturation process, all all this stuff.

Unknown Speaker 17:22
Yeah, different. Jerry much, I think over the last couple of years gave you a lot more perspective into both different types of working environments, as well as different types of what people prefer, from kind of like a gut gut to appreciate a lot more of different my colleagues who had families versus my colleagues who are kind of traveling the world and living from different Airbnb ease to different communities, to appreciate that to see kind of more firsthand and appreciate that a lot more, and try that some of that myself as well. So that that that part was very good experience.

george grombacher 18:07
I like it. Well, surely people are ready for difference making tip, what do you have for them?

Unknown Speaker 18:13
I think one of the biggest lessons I was reflecting on this, one of the biggest lessons I learned over the last, I’d say a year or so similar to that vein of just different perspectives is that everyone is the hero of their own journey. And everyone is kind of the main character of their own story. And I think it’s oftentimes too easy to forget. And think for my like, I made this mistake a ton of times when I think about not from my colleagues perspective, without my perspective, like, Oh, why shouldn’t they like this? Or should they want this or I prefer this. But it’s it’s important not to forget that everyone is the hero of their own story. And, you know, everyone’s fighting a battle that you probably don’t know that. And yeah, to remember that perspective. So that that’s kind of a big lesson that I learned through this kind of all. Self care, as we transitioned from a very in office culture to a fully remote culture and kind of working with a variety of different people.

george grombacher 19:16
Well, I think that is great stuff that definitely gets a come up. Early. Thank thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you,

Unknown Speaker 19:25
George, thanks so much for having me. It’s pleasure. They could follow me on Twitter. I’m starting to use that a little bit more. So that’s Charlie see Fay on Twitter, and yeah, on LinkedIn as well. People are more than happy to reach out. happy to chat.

george grombacher 19:42
Love it. If you enjoyed this as much as I did. So Charlie, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to where you can find Charlie on Twitter at Charlie C. Fang, and find them on LinkedIn. I’ll list both of those in the notes of the show. Thanks. Good, Charlie.

Unknown Speaker 19:58
Hey, thanks so much.

george grombacher 20:00
And until next time keep fighting the good fight we’re all in this together

Transcribed by

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